Daring to Dream

Roberts, Nora. Daring to Dream. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.

Reason read: August is Beach Read month.

To understand Margo Sullivan you first have to meet the super wealthy Templeton family. Margo grew up living in the Templeton household because her mother has been the family’s housekeeper forever and the Templetons treat their help like family. I cannot mention family enough! But, even though the super perfect Templetons have always treated Margot like family, she never felt she belonged to them or with them. While every other member of the family stayed close to home, involved with the family’s multi-million dollar hotelier business, Margo always needed more, more, more. Like every character in a Nora Roberts novel, Margo sports a beyond beautiful face and impossibly perfect body. As a teenager she left her mother and the Templeton household in search of fame and fortune as an aspiring model. Jet setting around the world, Margo has been gone for years. She has been seen only in pictures as the face of a well known cosmetics company. At that time nothing could stop her, nothing until a scandal involving drugs, her manager and the bus he threw her under. Suddenly knocked her off her pedestal, Margot has to come crawling back to her mother…and the Templeton clan.
Every good N.R. romance has a beautiful someone fighting off his or her passionate urges towards a seemingly unwilling beautiful someone else. Daring to Dream is no different. When Margo arrives home with her tail between her legs, she alternates between hating and needing heir to the family business, Josh Templeton.

Author fact: Nora Roberts has written over 250 novels.

Book trivia: Daring to Dream is the first book in the “Dream” trilogy.

Nancy said: Daring to Dream is in the category of “contemporary” romance (Book Lust, p 204).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


Crazy Jack

Napoli, Donna Jo. Crazy Jack. New York: Random House, 1999.

Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.

Everyone knows the traditional English story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack sells the family cow for some worthless beans. Said beans grow into a magical beanstalk that reaches up into the clouds. When Jack climbs the stalk he comes to find the home of an ugly and mean giant. Escaping the giant’s cannibalistic wrath, Jack is able to steal away with a goose that lays golden eggs, a pot of gold, and a magical singing harp.
However, Donna Jo Napoli’s version has more substance in that you meet Jack when he is nine years old and living on a farm with his mother and father. Next door is beautiful Flora and life is perfect. But, Jack’s dad, being a gambler, ends up losing the farm. Literally. In his guilt and shame he commits suicide and Jack goes crazy with grief. Over time Jack’s life is turned upside down. As he grows up, he and his mother become poorer and poorer until finally, they are down to their last cow. To make matters worse, lovely Flora announces her engagement to another (sane) man. True to the original telling, Jack sells the family cow for some seemingly worthless beans that end up growing into a huge beanstalk that reaches the heavens. And like the original story, Jack climbs the beanstalk and discovers that giant and his riches. But, Napoli adds a sex scene and in the end has a powerful message for her readers. Jack may be crazy but he also has a heart. His ending is a happily ever after despite the heartache.

Line I really liked, “I’ll share my bed with whatever dreams come” (p 60).

Author fact: Napoli dedicated Crazy Jack to Barry. I guess he “always stands by his crazy woman.” That made me laugh. She also thanked the librarians at Swathmore College. Napoli sounds like someone with whom I could hang out.

Book trivia: Crazy Jack is so short it can be read in a day, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Take your time with Jack and the Giant. You won’t regret it.

Nancy said: Napoli’s reinterpretations of classic tales are good for teenage girls (More Book Lust, p 94).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).


Ada Blackjack

Niven, Jennifer. Ada Blackjack: a True Story of Survival in the Arctic. New York: Hyperion, 2003.

Reason read: Ear-marking the reindeer is an Arctic tradition that takes place in the summer.

Jennifer Niven calls Ada Blackjack a hero. I don’t think I would go that far. She didn’t save anyone’s life and her heroic deeds were limited to having the courage and resourcefulness to survive her unlikely predicament physically unscathed. I say unlikely because what would a impoverished and divorced 23 year old Inuit woman (a rumored prostitute) be doing on a potentially illegal expedition in the wilds of an Arctic island with four young white men and a cat? Desperate to find a husband and to make enough money to care for her oft-ill son, Ada signs on a seamstress with explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson’s mission to colonize barren Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia. Using the theory of squatters’ rights, Stafansson sent four young men and six months worth of supplies to plant the British flag on what he thought was unclaimed land. He only sent them with six months of supplies because he was sure they could survive off the land once they had exhausted their stores. What could possibly go wrong in the “friendly” Arctic?
It’s not a plot spoiler to say that Ada was the only human to make it out alive (and yes, the cat survives, too). But, here’s where the story gets interesting. Stefansson vacillates between wanting to take all the credit for Ada’s survival and pretending he’s never heard of the woman. It’s what happens after the rescue that becomes the bigger story.

As an aside, I love the process of discovery. While Niven was researching her first book, The Ice Master she discovered Nome, Alaska native Ada Blackjack. Ada’s adventure intrigued Niven enough to prompt her to dig into Blackjack’s life story and ultimately, write a memoir about her expedition with four white men (and a cat) to Wrangel Island. To carry that idea of discovery a step further, after reading Ada Blackjack I found a documentary on her. I got caught up in her mystique, too.

Author fact: Niven also wrote The Ice Master which is on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Ada Blackjack includes two wonderful sections of photographs. A handful of comments about the photos: the expedition cat, Vic, is fantastic. Milton Galle is a man’s man and my favorite photo is of Vic and Milton.  They were all good looking people.

Nancy said: If you like Krakauer or Junger, you will like Niven.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South” (p 231).


Coldest Winter

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Reason read: the Korean War officially ended in July.

The interesting thing about the Korean War is that most were reluctant to call it an actual war. Those that admitted to it being a conflict were convinced it would be over in no time. What started in June of 1950 as a “clash” between North Korea and South Korea turned into a war of attrition when China and the Soviet Union came to the aid of North Korea and the UN and United States joined the South. Despite a treaty being signed in July of 1953, to this day, technically the conflict has not been recognized as over.
While Halberstam portrays the well-researched historical events with accuracy and thorough detail, his portrayals of key U.S. figures such as Generals MacArthur and Bradley, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and President Truman read like a fast paced political thriller. The larger than life personalities practically jump off the page.

As an aside: I suppose it would make sense if I thought about it more, but the Korean War was the first time air-to-air combat was conducted. Before then planes were mostly used to drop bombs and transport men and supplies.

Best line to quote, “Sometimes it is the fate of a given unit to get in that way of something so large it seems to have stepped into history’s own path” (p 258).

Author fact: Halberstam was born in April and died in April.

Book trivia: The Coldest Winter was published after Halberstam’s death.

Nancy said: Pearl called Coldest Winter the “best book for the nonhistorian on the Korean War” (Book Lust To Go p 127).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Korea – North and South” (p 125). I am willing to bet Coldest Winter would have been in More Book Lust’s chapter “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112) if it had been published in time. MBL was published in 2005 and Coldest Winter came two years later in 2007. It would appear Pearl is a fan and has read everything Halberstam has ever written.


Den of Thieves

Stewart, James B. Den of Thieves. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Reason read: July is typically Job Fair month (although this is not the job most would want to have…).

In a nutshell, Den of Thieves recounts the largest insider-trading scandal in the all-about-me 1980s. It is what happens when all-out avarice collides with above-the-law arrogance. Everyone has a hazy remembrance of Milken, Siegel and Freeman (to name a few) but with thorough research Stewart’s book keeps the details in sharp focus.

Confessional: in this criminal climate we currently live in, I had a hard time reading about a group of individuals who had a blatant disregard for the law. Some things never change. I couldn’t finish this book.

Author fact: Stewart likes going after big time dirty deeds. He has written other books on big time falls from grace.

Book trivia: Stewart includes a great selection of photographs.

Nancy said: Nancy called Den of Thieves “frightening” (Book Lust, p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “BBB: Best Business Books” (p 33). How it is considered a “best business book” I’ll never know.


Cop Hater

McBain, Ed. Cop Hater. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.

Reason read: McBain died in the month of July; read Cop Hater in his memory.

Someone is going around killing cops. One right after another in quick succession, three plain-clothed detectives are gunned down. At first glance Joe Public assumes someone out there is a serious cop hater. That seems to be the only connection between the three victims. They are all law enforcement. So, someone must really hate the fuzz, right? The only other common denominator is the heat. It’s summertime and every day is blazing hot, hot, hot. Tempers are flaring but is it hot enough to drive someone to murder? That’s what protagonist Detective Steve Carella needs to find out.
What I loved about McBain’s style is how he drops clues along the way. Once you know “whodunit” you can go back and see the answers peeking out way before the individual crimes are solved. While the details are a little dated and police procedures are very different than they were in the 50s, Cop Hater is still an entertaining read.

I forgot to mention my favorite line, “The elevator crawled up the intestinal track of the building” (p 92). Great image!

Author fact: Ed McBain is actually Evan Hunter and Cop Hater is his first 87th Precinct book of the series.

Book trivia: Cop Hater was originally published in 1956 and made into a movie in 1958. The funny thing is, as I was reading it I thought it would make the perfect crime series for television. Turns out, McBain modeled Cop Hater after the television show, Dragnet.

Nancy said: Nancy said Cop Hater takes place in New York City. I am guessing she didn’t read McBain’s introduction because he makes a point of explaining the Eighty-seventh Precinct is based on a New York City precinct. Cop Hater actually takes place in the fictional city of Isola.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the huge chapter “I Love a Mystery” (p 120).


Book of Mediterranean Cooking

David, Elizabeth. The Book of Mediterranean Cooking. London: Penguin Books, 1955.

Reason read: July is picnic month. Picnics = food. Food = Elizabeth David. Need I say anymore? If you know Elizabeth David you know I don’t.

Confessional #1: When I first picked up Mediterranean Cooking I was trying to decide if Elizabeth David truly expected the everyday housewife to cook from this book. The magic of her writing is that her methods as far as cooking is concerned are unconventional and languid. Who else measures their olive oil by the wineglass? Even if you don’t consider yourself a gourmet cook, The Book of Mediterranean Cooking is a sophisticated book to have on your shelf. It just looks impressive. It’s one of those cookbooks you can pull down to read on a snowy New England night and dream of a mile-long Tuscan table laden with meats and cheeses and fruits, jugs of green olive oil, freshly pressed while a handsome someone in a long white apron pours you ruby red wine by the barrel.

Confessional #2: When I finally closed the book I had only one thought. There were many recipes I couldn’t even entertain the thought of trying. So, in the end, I answered my own question.

Author fact: David wrote cookbooks covering French, Italian, and Mediterranean food (to name a few). I am reading seven such books by Elizabeth David.

Book trivia: Book of Mediterranean Cooking is full of illustrations and quotations. Both are gorgeous.

Nancy said: Nancy called David’s writing evocative saying, “you can smell and taste the ingredients as she describes them” (Book Lust, p 91).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought (p 91).